Council cuts are heaviest in poor areas, report finds

The IFS has uncovered wide variations over the impact of the austerity measures ordered by the Government

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Many councils have been forced to slash spending by more than a third since the last election, with the cuts falling most heavily on some of England’s poorest areas, a new report has found.

All authorities have had to cut budgets heavily since the Coalition came to office, leading to thousands of redundancies and closure of services.

But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has uncovered wide variations over the impact of the austerity measures ordered by the Government.

According to its analysis, councils in the more affluent shire counties have endured far less pain than largely urban districts with high levels of poverty and deprivation.

The drop in council spending in the North-east has been double the economies in the prosperous South-east.

 

The London authority of Westminster has been the biggest loser with the budget having been cut by 46.3 per cent since 2010, while spending in Tower Hamlets has been reduced by 42.1 per cent .

By contrast, north-east Lincolnshire escaped relatively unscathed with a cut of only 6.3 per cent.

The IFS said the trend was set to continue, with the deep cuts planned for 2015-16 affecting the same authorities which lost heavily in the last five years. London boroughs face average cuts of 6.3 per cent next year, compared with 1.9 per cent in shire counties.

Councils have more than halved spending on planning and development and reduced safety, housing and transport budgets by at least 30 per cent, the report claims. Spending on social care fell by nearly 17 per cent. David Innes, a research economist at the IFS, said: “It is more deprived areas, those with lower local revenue-raising capacity and the fastest population growth, that have seen the largest cuts to spending per person.”

But Kris Hopkins, the local government minister, said: “We have continued to deliver a fair settlement to every part of the country – north and south, rural and urban, city and shire. The truth is councils have continued to balance budgets and maintain public satisfaction with services.”

David Sparks, the chair of the Local Government Association, said: “No part of the public sector has faced bigger cuts to funding than councils during this Parliament. This has put many of the local services people value, like libraries, road maintenance and care for the elderly, in a fragile financial position.

“Local government has worked hard to protect residents from the impact of cuts, but the efficiency savings councils have made since 2010 cannot be made again.”

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